Welcome to the new me, I hope you like her because I sure do!
It’s funny, I didn’t mean to change. It wasn’t a goal, I didn’t think I was a bad person, I guess I just evolved.
Ten years ago, I was a grumpy nineteen year old, trying to work out what I was going to do with life, and thinking the world owed me something. I was selfish and I made stupid decisions. I wasn’t very nice to anyone, least of all myself. Unsurprisingly, I’m friends with very few of the people I was friends with back then.
This weekend I will celebrate having completed 50 parkruns at 8 different events which is pretty awesome –I’ll get a cool red shirt. You know what’s greater? I’ll be volunteering for the 41sttime at parkrun. FORTY ONE TIMES! Now, not all of those involved me giving up my run entirely. I’ve helped in the carpark at Penrith Lakes parkrun 19 times, I’ve been a pacer twice, a VI guide twice and a token sorter and tail walker once each. I’ve given up my runs to be a Run Director at East Richmond 9 times, a marshal twice, a timekeeper twice and a barcode scanner twice.
I started running when I decided I wanted to have a family. I want to be a fit, active role model for my future children. Not long after I started running, I fell pregnant. I’d only been to parkrun a couple of times and had been on a number of training runs with the local triathlon club.
I started helping in the car park at Penrith Lakes and quickly got to know the regulars, I loved the familiar smiles. I’d soon had a go at many roles and as I progressed through my pregnancy I volunteered more and more regularly. I craved the friendly faces and I thrived on the thanks I got for volunteering. The sweaty, breathless people coming through those flags, boasting of PB’s, overcoming injuries or showing off their family members who they’d managed to bring along. I was addicted. I had originally wanted to complete 50 runs but now all I wanted was to hit 25 volunteers before I had my son. It didn’t happen; I majorly underestimated how much it sucks to be pregnant in Summer.
After I had Theodore, I realised that being fit and active is all well and good, but I felt he deserved a mum that was even more of a role model. I’d spent far too many years being a jerk. I didn’t want my son growing up in a world of jerks. I wanted my son growing up in a world where people go out of their way to be nice to each other. In a world where everyone has their nose in a device, I want my son to instead see people that talk to each other at community events, people that say hi to each other as they walk down the street.
East Richmond parkrun opened near me and were after Run Directors, I threw my hat in the ring! I absolutely love being a Run Director. Celebrating with people as they cross the finish line, reading and responding to the emails and messages, reading comments from people congratulating each other on great photos or making the weekly PB lists.
Still, I craved more, I wanted to help more people, I wanted to brighten more faces. I put a call out for a vision impaired runner looking for a guide. I contacted Achilles, a charity that links vision impaired runners with guides and provides training. Unfortunately I wasn’t able to attend their meetings but I read their articles online. Soon I was introduced to Levi, an 8 year old boy with a Craniopharyngioma brain tumour and 10 per cent of his vision remaining. He was training for his state cross country event but didn’t have a guide to run with. It was 2km. We practiced numerous times per week. Around and around the local oval we went. When race day came, I was the only guide amongst 50 primary school children competing in the Multiclass event. I had the privilege of running alongside children with varying levels of ability from amputees to autism and everything in between. It was INCREDIBLE! Their drive, their passion, they were only racing themselves. I cried at the start line. This week I will be running with Levi at his Athletics Carnival, I’ll be sure to stuff some tissues down my bra for all the emotions.
Yesterday I received a message from the Run Director at Penrith Lakes parkrun, they had a Vision Impaired man requesting a guide, could I help? You couldn’t wipe the smile from my face. Was she serious? The Run Director had messaged me! What an honour!
This morning I met Ben, he was wearing an Achilles t-shirt, I panicked “Argh! I haven’t trained with Achilles! He’s used to having a real guide”. I began apologising about not being a real guide. He didn’t mind. Turned out he’d forgotten his tether and had made one out of a dish cloth, I relaxed, he mustn’t be too serious then.
We ran and we chatted, we caught up with his friend who he’d told me was “much faster” than him. We passed him and finished a minute before him. Ben was thrilled! He gave a rating of 30/10 as a guide! We hadn’t fallen, we’d run well and he’d gotten a PB. I learnt a lot from Ben. How he’d tried to avoid using a cane as he was embarrassed to be blind, until he was accused of being drunk one too many times for feeling his way around building with his hands. He told me how homeless people abuse him now because his cane often hits them while they sleep on footpaths. He also described to me how he visions a rainbow and shared with me his passion for his career. I learnt so much in the hour or so that I spent with him.
My son has a Mum who gives back to the community, in as many ways as she can. People say hi to me in the street. People give me a cuddle at parkrun. People go for a run with me when I go on holiday in another state!
So, this is me: Madi Merc, wife, mum, runner, volunteer, community member, tradeswoman, good person.
I hope you like her, I sure do.
The world is full of good people, if you can’t find one, be one.